Obama to Reassure Baltic States Worried About Russia, In this article in The Wall Street Journal, Charles Kupchan, the White House's senior director for European affairs, says: "Russia, don't even think about messing around in Estonia or in any of the Baltic areas in the same way that you have been messing around in Ukraine." "Mr. Obama's travels to Estonia and the NATO summit are a two-pronged approach to convey to the Russians that their behavior is unacceptable, Mr. Kupchan said Friday."
Obama Just Made the Ultimate Commitment to Eastern Europe, David Frum at The Atlantic says President Obama delivered the most important promise about European security in the post-cold war era in Estonia yesterday:
Just this past week, NATO agreed to form a new “very high-readiness” brigade that could quickly deploy anywhere in Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, U.S.-led sanctions are exerting an ever-tightening grip on the Russian economy. Earlier this week, one gas-industry insider told The Financial Times that without access to U.S. technology, Russia’s hopes to develop a liquefied natural-gas industry would be squashed “like a bug.”
That all sent a message, but only indirectly. The direct message came on Wednesday, in Tallinn, Estonia, in the sharpest language any U.S. president has used toward Russia since Ronald Reagan upbraided the Evil Empire. One by one, President Obama repudiated the lies Vladimir Putin has told about Ukraine: that the Ukrainians somehow provoked the invasion, that they are Nazis, that their freely elected government is somehow illegal. He rejected Russia’s claim that it has some sphere of influence in Ukraine, some right of veto over Ukrainian constitutional arrangements. And he forcefully assured Estonians—and all NATO’s new allies—that waging war on them meant waging war on the United States. “[T]he defense of Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defense of Berlin and Paris and London,” Obama said. “Article 5 is crystal clear. An attack on one is an attack on all. So if, in such a moment, you ever ask again, who’ll come to help, you’ll know the answer: the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America, right here, present, now”.
In Tallinn, President Obama gave the most important speech about European security—and issued the most important pledge—of the post-Cold War era.
The Russians Are Coming: John McLaughlin, former deputy director of the CIA suggests that NATO may not be up to "looking Putin in the eyes and seeing his soul". He warns:
"NATO must anticipate and decide what collective defense really means in light of the novel threat posed by Putin’s strategy. If the leaders do not do this and then freeze in the face of a circumstance requiring unanimity, they will hand Russia a strategic victory. Russia has long held a conviction that NATO has always been dedicated to keeping them down, and Putin would like nothing better than to show NATO toothless".
Obama’s legacy could be a revitalized NATO, according to Anne Applebaum, writing in the Washington Post:
Once NATO has become clearer about its real security interests, its forces can again start carrying out annual exercises, annually, as they did during the Cold War. It’s time to rehearse our reaction to a Crimean-style Russian invasion of Latvia, led not by regular troops but by “little green men” pretending to be local Russians. It’s time to anticipate, say, a civil war in Libya or the fall of Baghdad. It’s time that NATO had a better-coordinated cyberdefense and began to think more deeply about information warfare. It’s also time to face the fact that Russia may have already abandoned several post-Cold War arms treaties, including those covering medium-range missiles: If that’s the case, we need to abandon them, too. Deterrence worked in the past, and it can work in the future.
All of these changes are possible. Obama might not have the power to make Congress do what he wants, but he does have the power to relaunch the Western alliance. He has all of the cards — the United States contributes three-quarters of NATO’s budget — as well as the ultimate argument: If the Western alliance, as currently constituted, no longer wants to defend itself, America can always leave. That might sharpen minds quickly enough to give Obama a foreign policy legacy that would last.
How NATO Reinvented Itself in Less Than Six Months, Jan Techau at Carnegie Europe says NATO is making is “biggest strategic shift” in 2 years:
The game changer is the Readiness Action Plan (RAP), which will install a quasi-permanent NATO troop presence on the alliance’s Eastern flank. The aim is to reassure members in Central Europe that NATO’s Article 5 security guarantee—a pledge that an attack on one ally is an attack on all—actually means something.
Under the RAP, the alliance will not station troops in the region but will rotate them in and out in an elaborate and tightly knit exercise-and-maneuver scheme. Allied troops will basically be on permanent increased patrol duty, reminding any potential aggressor (primarily Mr. Putin) that tampering with the borders of Article 5 territory would be a bad idea.
In a last-minute move, the RAP was widened to include NATO’s Southern flank. This made it easier for allies like Greece, Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy to swallow the shift of attention to the East. It also has the advantage of making the alliance look more serious about what is happening around the Mediterranean. NATO can now claim that it is not entirely obsessed with Russia alone—an obsession that, diplomatically, is desirable for many allies.
Charting the Course—Directions for the New NATO Secretary General, Jacob Stokes, Julianne Smith, Nora Bensahel and David Barno, Center for a New American Security Policy Brief, September 2014 - this report sets out recommendations for incoming Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who takes over from Anders Fogh Rasmussen on 1 October. The authors identify four sets of challenges that include "both the toughest problems and most promising opportunities for NATO". They correspond to the four cardinal directions of a compass: East (Russia Returns), West (Trans-Atlantic Roles, Missions and Resources), South (Threats from the Middle East and North Africa) and North (Security for a New Frontier).